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Slowdown with over 40 windows open

Hello,
We have a power user who multitasks his system to its knees.  It is a Dell Precision 370 with 3.0Ghz HT P4 and 3GB of RAM running Windows XP SP2.  This user regularly operates with anywhere from 40-80 windows open at once which include dozens of network locations, half the MS-Office suite including Outlook accessing over 10Gb of email,  Adobe applications, etc.  The system gets very slow and unresponsive and applications begin to behave oddly and occasionally crash, despite being painstakingly reimaged from scratch.  The memory usage of the machine with all these windows opens usually does not exceed 1 gig or so according to task manager.  The user is convinced that they need more memory even though I have explained that he has more memory than our core servers supporting the entire company.  I suspect the slowdowns and misbehaviour are due to poor scheduling and management of resources by windows itself, and the sheer number of context switches the system must deal with.  Are there any registry adjustments that can be made to improve this?  Would multiple processors/cores alleviate the issue?  The user is part of upper level management and "No" is not an acceptable answer.  I am hesitant to build a dual or quad core workstation only to find it hits the same wall due to the windows OS.
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kpapajanis
Asked:
kpapajanis
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11 Solutions
 
CallandorCommented:
He probably has an I/O bottleneck on his hard drive with all those open applications.  I would recommend a faster hard drive, such as a WD Raptor or even a SCSI Cheetah.  For even more performance, using a RAID-0 array (with proper backup setup as a regular task) would reduce the I/O the most, short of a solid-state drive (which would cost an exhorbitant amount).
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CallandorCommented:
I would recommend Black Viper's WinXP tweaks, but his site seems to have gone away.  Someone else mad a copy of most of them here: http://www.dead-eye.net/WinXP%20Services.htm
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RPPreacherCommented:
Try adding this switch to boot.ini to make all 3 GB available to the user

[boot loader]
timeout=30
default=multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)\WINNT
[operating systems]
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)\WINNT="????" /3GB

http://www.microsoft.com/whdc/system/platform/server/PAE/PAEmem.mspx

Also 10 GB of email is RIDICULOUS and 40-80 Windows is also INSANE.  I think the problem will continue until this user learns to use a computer properly.

(Also note 4 GB is the max memory for Windows XP)
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xpsavyCommented:
Hi kpapajanis


open registry find these keys and
HungAppTimeout , WaitToKillAppTimeout , MenuShowDelay
 and reduce the data value to 20 what ever it may be

All the best
Rupesh Krishna
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djhathCommented:
If you feel the need to further tweak his system, I found this site:

http://www.tweakhound.com
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RPPreacherCommented:
>"No" is not an acceptable answer.

Ummm.  If 'no' is the answer, then it must be acceptable.  Sometimes someone must grow a pair and tell a user that you cannot fix their computer because the computer is not the problem.  Tell them NO ONE needs 40-80 Windows open.  NO ONE reads 10 GB of email.  NO ONE.

Assuming no one has the backbone to tell the user this (and I am certain I will not get points for this unpopular position but I dont care), set them up with a second computer.  One for the assinine amount of email (10 GB) and a second for the assinine amount of Windows open.

10 GB of email...seriously...

Appropriate RFC
http://www.faqs.org/rfcs/rfc1925.html
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DolGuldurCommented:
As RPPreacher mentionned, this user has to learn to use a computer first, it is not normal to have a 10gb mailbox and to have 40-80 windows opened at the same time, that's unbelievable!!! I work on a lot of different projects at the same time and if I have 10-15 windows opened, that's a lot for me... You should have a nice talk with that user!

And for performance issue, if you haven't done already, you can deactivate all visual theme by right clicking my computer -> properties -> Advanced tab -> Performance settings and select "Adjust to obtain best performance" or something like it, my windows is in french...

Good luck with that!
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Redwulf__53Commented:
Interesting remarks....
WHY shouldn't a user be able to run 80+ apps simultaniously? Does it say so in the manual? IMHO the user is right, and the problem should be resolved on a technical level, not on a social level. Quote: "Tell them NO ONE needs 40-80 Windows open.  NO ONE reads 10 GB of email.  NO ONE."  end quote - is not a judgement up to the System Administrator.
A typical server may be running HUNDREDS of threads simultaniously.
The most sensible solution is the /3gb switch in boot.ini, as the memory usage doesn't seem to go over 1Gb.
I'd say one or more of the applications running is the culprit, like the Virus scanner.
Another thing: if the mailbox is 10Gb, and it is an Exchange mailbox, it should not affect performance of the client, only of the mailserver. If it is a PST, well....
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RPPreacherCommented:
>Another thing: if the mailbox is 10Gb, and it is an Exchange mailbox, it should not affect performance of the client, only of the mailserver. If it is a PST, well....

Incorrect.  Outlook will download all 10 GB during start up unless in cached mode (O2003) in which case it will STILL compare headers to see if cache version is up to date.

Buzz -- thanks for playing.
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Redwulf__53Commented:
"Outlook will download all 10 GB during start up "
No it doesn't. That's the whole purpose of MAPI, which has been around since the time we were running Outlook/Exchange on a 486 with 8Mb.

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The_IT_GarageCommented:
Try cutting his screen color depth to 16-bit instead of 32 bit (if applicable). Cut the screen refresh to as low as possible that the user can stand (but no less than 70Hz). Give him a single color background (no .JPG or bitmap). Basically cut all the visual detail to the minimums. The tweakhound.com link suggested by djhath is also good.

40-80 windows might be pushing Windows resource limits, especially if memory usage doesn't exceed 1GB (I regularaly hit 1 - 1.5GB with ~20 windows open).  The open network locations should have very little effect. More memory is not the issue here it's system resources, so you need to cut him back on all non-essential items to free resources.

When his system becomes unresponsive does a reboot clear it? If so when it slows down does it speed back up after closing most of his applications? With a lot of applications open the AV scanner might be having a hard time as well, you can try turnig off AV to see if things improve.

I'd try to narrow it down to which app is causing most of the slowdown.

Having said that 10GB of mail and 80 open windows is a bit much, but we're here to make the customer happy and only after determining that the user has in fact hit a platforms limits should you suggest the user change how thay work. Up front training would have alleviated this problem, because while most of us know more windows open=less performance, most end users don't know it. This would be a good time to let this user know his method of working IS uh....."not standard" so you can't guarantee you can meet his demands.
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catoaguilarCommented:
If somebody wants to see 80 windows opened at the same time, should go to the Empire State.

No matter how powerful is the machine you are thinking to get for this user.. he will need a more powerful one soon...  he will just start opening 120 windows instead of 80 and increasing mailbox usage to 30 Gigs...

How often does your smart user reboots the system?? I guess he is like my boss that calls me because his PC is running slow and I found last reboot was 57 days ago.... and have open every MS office aplication with several documents each one.
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catoaguilarCommented:
Hello Redwulf_53...  

What would you say if you were in charge of Air Conditioning and some user ask you to cool down his office up to minus 30 Degrees???....  

"WHY shouldn't a user be able to work on a cool office at minus 30 Degrees? Does it say so in the manual?"

I'm sure you will not start getting more powerful cooling system to get the requested temp.  (solution in the Technical level). You will convince to user to cool down his office just to the normal temperature or send him to work in an environmental station in the north pole (Solution in the social level)

If we had to accept every ridiculous request from any user we will have no time to solve the real problems. If your boss ask for a million terabits per second internet connection because 5 megabits/second is not enough for him...  he has to accept a NO as answer.
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DolGuldurCommented:
"Tell them NO ONE needs 40-80 Windows open.  NO ONE reads 10 GB of email.  NO ONE."  end quote - is not a judgement up to the System Administrator

It is if it means that you have to buy new hard disk for your server for lack pf space because of 10 gb mailbox. And it is if you have to buy 3 gb of RAM for that user just because he doesn't want to close a couple of windows. And even if it's not written somewhere doesn't mean you can do it. Is it written somewhere that the cd tray must not be used as a coffee cup holder??
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x86fixCommented:
I have seen the dual proccessors work wonders for laptops.  I don't see much defference in desktops but I know they provide greater overhead.  Dual CPU servers are clearly better.  That is what they are for.  The HD should be replaced with something that can support higher data rates and that has a fully dedicated controller including memory.  If you ran a raid 0 you could double your transfer speed.  I have done it with 2 raptors for myself.  I am a pretty average guy though.  Since this guy his golden poop why not use scsi drives and get him a multi-cpu server?  Why would you even ask.  I think he would expect you to "just DO IT".  Maybe he could pull a few strings and you could have it done yesterday...  Seriously though,   Windows tweaks are helpful but there is no question that more power is required.  Stop goofing around with us and order it.  $5000-$10000?  HE is worth it.  He probably makes the company that every time he toots.  If I am wrong it is only because you over sold his status.  If he is important and productive, (and I believe he probably is) then you have no choice but to get him a top notch workstation (NOW).  What you have may be good but get the best and be done with it.  Stop asking if and starting asking- WHO MAKES THE FASTEST, BEST QUALITY HIGH PERFORMANCE WORKSTATIONS.  Don't build it yourself even if you know you can.  Outsource to the EXPERTS and get the monkey off your back.  If you get the worlds best desktop and it is not good enough then his problem is with the World but not you.  That is what I would do to play this safe AND effective.
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SStoryCommented:
I do agree that the user is using too many Windows, and I would think can't possibly really need them all open at the same time. Does he just forget they are there and keep opening them? ;)

One thing is turn off Themes and Indexing Services.  This speeds up a little.  

If he's willing to pay for it, give him 20gb of RAM and multiple processors and see if he's happier. (just kidding...sort of)

Multiple computers might be a better solution, although I really agree with the above.  Just because you are the boss and just "have to have it" doesn't mean it can or should be done and that you shouldn't have to learn how to properly use a computer.  

This is a Dilbert moment.  (I don't expect any points either)
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RPPreacherCommented:
>This is a Dilbert moment.  (I don't expect any points either)

Exactly.  Shesh, kowtow to every stupid user request.  That's probably the right thing to do.
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dcliveCommented:
I don't see how the 3GB switch will help at all.  The 3GB switch allows the VAD to change from 2G to the user and 2G to the OS -> 3G to the user and 1G to the OS; since he isn't even hitting a wall at 1G, increasing the VAD to 3G isn't going to help him.   The 3GB switch is more for systems (typically server systems) that run very large databases and need to have the largest available amount of memory running in user mode (as opposed to kernel mode) as possible.  I don't think that will help this user; the 2G allocation (per task) is plenty, and no information suggests that a larger allocation (again, per task, not for the entire machine) will help at all.

The 'lower the refresh rate, lower the # of colors, drop the themes, etc.' suggestions may have a very, very, very marginal impact on performance, but with a modern CPU and GPU (and RAM) none of that will matter significantly.  BTW, what is the GPU (the graphics processor) in this system?  Hopefully not integrated graphics; that would slow things down a bit as the OS has to fight against the video subsystem to use RAM.  

Black Viper's site has been so widely debunked (see Anandtech's forums for exact and tedious details, including benchmarks with old systems, medium systems, and high end systems) that it isn't funny.  Anyone who still believes his crap is being foolish.  

You can run perfmons against the system (google perfmon for details) to see what's eating up his performance.  If that's a bit much to learn, try starting with XP's built-in Task Monitor and simply look at what's eating CPU performance - keep it constantly running and look for changes.  The best bet, though, is to get intimately familiar with perfmon so you would then *know* (rather than guess) what is causing the bottlenecks.  So far all I've heard (buy a RAID set, buy a dual-core CPU, etc.) is a guess.  Educated guesses, certainly, but still guesses.  Find the application that's eating his bandwidth, eliminate it, and that might fix the issue entirely.... but for all we know, it could be a driver issue that pegs the CPU at 100% when it has IRQL problems; it could be a bad update to MSIE that pegs the CPU when running certain types of content...there are all kinds of possibilities.

You can always call Microsoft.  For $245 they'll troubleshoot this and tell you exactly where your hangup is.  It may be you're just running out of PTEs or system heap; who knows at this point...
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catoaguilarCommented:
Who said Dilbert?? Check this out to see a good example of this...

http://www.comics.com/comics/dilbert/english/archive/edilbert-20050910.html

 
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SStoryCommented:
great Dilbert.  Cool.

I agree with DClive.  Either pay M$ to troubleshoot it or dive into Perfmon
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x86fixCommented:
This notion that $245 dollars and MS gives an answer is funny.  Increasing computing power is not a guess.  It is a smart step.  If the problom only surfaces after opening more and more Windows, then it is not likely just a bad driver.  What is causing te bottleneck?  Try fitting 80 people in your mini-van.  Maybe it is just a seating problem?  Give me a break.  Common sense says to increase the power of the computer or lighten the load.  This fix the OS stuff is silly.  The OS may not be made for this so at least give the guy a comuter that is and let the flaws in OS show themselves.  That is not guessing.  

This is a great bunch of answers and it illustrates some of the reasons people don't like IT guys.  You have to work to solve problems and not just tell others that they can't do that or why they are not doing it right.  The purpose of the computers is to help the PEOPLE.  Listen to the people and try to figure out how to make the computers work for them.  

I have called MS and they have some good people there but Jesus is not on staff or he is busy with IE 7.  These people created part of the inadequacy and a phone call is not going to re-engineer Windows.  That said, a more powereful computer will help.  BTW, Dilbert is pretty much an idiot too.
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dcliveCommented:
I have quite a bit of experience with Microsoft.  For $245, they *will* fix your problem.  They will use real tools to figure out what the issue is - without guessing.  If they can't, ask for your money back, and you'll get it - they guarantee complete satisfaction or your money back.

And no, unless CPU in TaskMon is pegged at 100%, it may not (i.e. almost certainly isn't) be a CPU problem.  You're guessing.  

Don't guess.  Use PerfMon and be certain.  
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RPPreacherCommented:
>This is a great bunch of answers and it illustrates some of the reasons people don't like IT guys.

And illustrates why IT guys dislike users.

User:  "Make this pig fly."
IT:  "Uh, pigs don't fly"
User:  "Our IT guys suck.  We need the pig to fly.  We told the customer the pig would fly."
IT:  "Uh, pigs don't fly."
User:  "I'm the boss.  Pigs must fly."

We cannot alter reality.  Pigs do not fly.  PCs are not meant to have 80 windows open.  Mailboxes are not meant to be 10 GB.

>That said, a more powereful computer will help.

Have your IT install spell checker.

>Dilbert is pretty much an idiot too.

No, Dilbert is a cartoon.  Idiots are people who post opinions without facts to support them.
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x86fixCommented:
Guess that got a little close to home for you...
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SStoryCommented:
All aside, this conversation has gone south and isn't helper the asker.

However, Dilbert unfortunately is pretty close to reality in many businesses.

There have been many good suggestions on trying to find out the bottleneck, but realistically, the user is using too many Windows, and probably very frivously at that.  No human can possibly use 80 windows quickly enough to justify having them all open.  The computer probably spends it's life thrashing--switching things in and out of memory--even with a lot of RAM.
Adobe Acrobat Reader 7.0 for one, uses around 64MB on my machine just in loading up--no document loaded.  At least that's what task man shows.  Software is getting bloated and the more memory the more programs suck up. I can't imagine if these are 80 good sized applications running.  Maybe the user needs to buy 20gb of RAM to find out that it still won't work.
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